ANSLEY–Winter break has come to an end and it’s back to school for students in our area. Classes resumed for Ansley students on Tuesday, January 7 but it was not simply class as usual. Students were divided into groups to view live demonstrations of an artist at work in a mobile glass studio.
The Hastings College Mobile Glass Studio–from the Department of Visual Arts and Jackson Dinsdale Art Center (JDAC)–travels to high schools across the region with its mobile unit that includes a 2,100-degree furnace to melt glass and all of the necessary equipment.
Artist Michael Beahm demonstrated glass blowing and explained to students both the art and science of glass blowing, the use of hollow and stainless blow pipes, metal oxides added to crushed glass to add color, textures and density of the glass, and the use of tools, gravity, and centripetal force to shape the glass.
He also discussed how temperature influences the process saying that in the glass studio, “cold glass” refers to glass that is still 1,000 degrees but is rigid and no longer moving. Many glass projects can take hours to days to completely cool in a device called an annealer.
“Inside of our trailer we have a small furnace and this furnace holds 60 pounds of clear, molten glass. Now that glass is 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit which is the same temperature as lava,” Beahm said.
Beahm, who was 17 when he began learning in the glass blowing studio, told students that glass blowing is a performance art as well as a team sport where he says he “gets to make cool stuff with his friends and be part of an amazing community surrounding the glass studio.”
Beahm took a public class through Hastings College when he was in high school and now works for the college during the year and works in New York at the Corning Museum of Glass, the world’s largest glass museum, during the summers.
Hoping to inspire students to look at art differently, Beahm said the mobile unit is an extension of the Hastings College art department which includes one of the largest glass studios of any college/university in the country.
“This program is really a couple different things. It’s a recruiting tool and it’s also an educational outreach program,” Beahm said.
Ansley Art teacher Kalla Sawyer learned about the mobile glass studio during an MNAC art teachers workshop in Halsey. She added that the mobile glass studio travels to schools for free and is a “very cost effective opportunity” for an enrichment day in which 7th-12th graders get to participate in unique activities on their first day back to school.
Saywer invited her art students as young as preschool to watch the demonstration and said Litchfield students also attended the demonstration on Tuesday afternoon.
Michael Beahm added it was great being in Ansley and that all of the students were engaged and asked a lot of questions.
“It was pretty cool, I’ve never seen anything like that before,” said junior Jeffery Cunningham.